In The Lord's House: A Place of Refuge
A. The world in which we live is indeed a troubled place. As we have seen from the horrible events this past week, it is apparent that we are not immune from attacks from unknown and outside forces that are bent on our destruction. Most of us think at least I do that we have no real enemies; there is no one I know of that has any animosity towards me. But it is now evident that sometimes we have enemies who are set on the destruction of not any individual or particular people, but classes of people or people that they identify as their perceived enemy. With people such as this in the world, and possibly living very close to us, though we do not know it, where do we go for safety? Where can we live without fear? What could possibly serve as our refuge?
B. A refuge is simply a place of shelter, protection, and safety from danger, and a place to where one can go for relief or escape. Everyone is looking for some sort of refuge in this world, people of all ages, all classes, all levels of education, and of all time. Infants look for refuge in the arms of their mothers. Young folks look for refuge in knowledge they have not yet gained. Teenagers look for a refuge of identity and comfort as they seek to find out who they are going to be. Young adults look for a refuge of trust and peace in the new world they have entered. Married couples look for refuge in each others' arms and in their homes. Older folks look for a refuge of support and care in those times to come when they will not be able to provide for themselves. But, we should know that all of the possible places of refuge we may seek here on this earth are only temporary. In the end, they will all fail. None of these places of refuge will give us the peace and safety that we all seek. We're looking in the wrong place!
C. What we need to do is take a look In The Lord's House and consider it as A Place of Refuge. Of all places in the world, this is the one place where man should be able to come for protection, safety, and relief. The Lord's church should be a place where men may flee to get away from the troubles and trials of the world in which we live, a place free of trouble, free of persecution, free from oppression, free of antagonism, and free from the pollutions of the world. But that refuge is not just a place where we run to when in trouble and leave when times are good and life is easy. The refuge found In The Lord's House is a place in which we seek to remain. It is a refuge only if we stay. With this in mind, let us look into God's word and In The Lord's House and see why it should be for us A Place of Refuge. It is a place where we:
I. ARE SAFE FROM DIVISIVENESS
A. Mankind's Divisions.
1. Unfair and Arbitrary. Man divides himself among arbitrary lines and separates himself from his own kind by what are often unfair and unjustified lines of division.
a. In some countries, fair-skinned people are looked down upon and those in positions of power and influence have relegated them to lower-class status.
b. In a few countries, those of a certain ancestry are favored and all others are considered "commoners," locked out of positions of power indefinitely.
c. In our own country, we have a history of injustice and prejudice towards certain races, and many minorities still fight against unfair treatment.
2. Even in Religious Circles. Even within some religious circles and institutions, there are lines of division that separate men from one another.
a. Some so-called "Christian" religions have hierarchies that are simply not found within the word of God, serving only those in power and excluding others who are a part of that group.
b. Other religions have a select few who make all the rules and regulations, and make the decisions about what every member must believe or be excluded. All other members of this religious group are basically on the outside have no part except to do the "footwork" of the church.
c. And, sad to say, there are even religious organizations that claim to be following the same Jesus Christ you and I do and separate themselves from other races as a matter of faith.
B. Such Should Not Be Found in the Lord's Church.
1. All Are Equal. [Gal. 3:26-28] In the Lord's church, there are no lines of distinction between the races, between the sexes, between rich and poor, educated and uneducated, and even between those who are masters and those who may be in bondage. In God's sight, those who are in Christ Jesus are all one. All are His children and all are subject to the blessings and benefits of His grace and glory. When we look In The Lord's House, we should find that all who are part of His body are treated equally, take part in all things that God has allowed, and no one is either elevated above or considered below another. This is where we may come to be safe from these unjust lines of distinction and rest in the assurance that every individual is equal in God's eyes.
2. Favoritism is Sin. [Jas. 2:1-9] James gives a very plain command that we are to "not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality." (v. 1) When people come into the Lord's house, the church, they should expect that the same message of salvation will be preached to all who enter, excluding only those who refuse to obey, and welcoming all who will.
II. MAY FIND RELIEF FROM THE CARES AND TROUBLES OF THIS WORLD
A. There is Much to be Troubled About.
1. Everyday Cares. Just the everyday life is enough to distress many people.
a. The everyday cares of a mother who has to put her own needs on the back burner day after day. The husband feeling the stresses of work and family.
b. Students face the stresses of learning and keeping up with the work that has to be done while balancing time spent on extracurricular activities and responsibilities.
c. And the elderly may just have the daily stresses of wondering if they will be able to provide for themselves, their health, or just getting around on their own.
2. Additional Troubles. In addition to the everyday cares, there are (as we have seen this past week), others who will add to the troubles and cares of our own life, and give us reason to be distressed and anxious.
a. The world gives us reason enough to be distressed, if we look around us. There are many who are willing to steal, destroy, and kill for their own selfish reasons, or for no reason at all.
b. Those who have an eye to the spiritual matters see the spread of ungodliness and many who are set on normalizing their ungodly behavior, and are troubled by the direction this country is headed and the seeming helplessness in changing things.
3. The World's Answer? When a troubled world seeks relief, many turn to others in the world for an answer to those troubles. And what do they provide? In man's finite wisdom, he seeks to suppress his feelings and cares, on one hand, and on the other, he redefines the troubles or lays the blame at the feet of others so we can go about our way. To the world, guilt is destructive and meaningless, and the only answer is to block out those feelings that cause us distress, but it does not get to the root of the problem.
B. Such Should Be Absent in the Lord's Church.
1. A Place of Relief. Within the Lord's house, the cares and troubles of this world should disappear. The Lord has promised His people His watchful care and relief to those who come to Him.
a. [1 Sam. 30:1-8] In this great example, David and his followers have come back to Ziklag, only to find that the Amalekites had raided the city and taken all their possessions and families. Upon discovering this, it is said that the people who were with him "lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep." (v. 4) This sounds much like the feelings that many have us may have had in the last few days, or maybe even at some other low point in our lives. What did David do? He was "greatly distressed"! He "strengthened himself in the Lord his God." (v. 5) He prayed and asked for an answer to his troubles! It is for this reason he could say, "You have relieved me in my distress." (Psa. 4:1)
b. [Matt. 26:36ff] Another great example is our Lord in the garden, the night He is betrayed. As he takes the disciples into the garden, He admits His distress over the coming event and prays! His disciples followed His example and when released after having been persecuted for preaching Jesus and healing in His name, they gathered together and prayed (Acts 4:23ff)!
2. Nothing Can Separate Us From His Love. [Rom. 8:35-39] The promise to His people is that nothing can separate us form His love. Not even "tribulation, distresses, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword." (v. 35) Within His house, those who are the Lord's people may rest assured and find confidence in the promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us. When troubles come, take them to the Lord. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." (1 Pet. 5:6, 7)
III. ESCAPE THE CONDEMNATION OF SIN
A. Outside of Christ, We Are Lost.
1. Hopeless. [Eph. 2:11-13] Paul reminded the Ephesian brethren that before the law of Christ came, they were "without Christ having no hope and without God in the world." As they were, and as all now are outside of Christ, there is no hope! They were hopeless! Imagine living the entirety of your life here on earth with no hope for the future, nothing to which you could look forward, and no promises to hold onto for helping you get through the struggles of this life.
a. [2 Thess. 1:6-10] Paul reminded the Thessalonian brethren that though they were being troubled, punishment awaited those who did not know God or who had not obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the only hope the ungodly and worldly man may expect. Not eternal life, but eternal punishment. Whatever hopes they had will perish with them (Prov. 11:7, 8).
b. [Rom. 2:5-9] Those guilty of sin may expect only the punishment that comes along with it. Paul reminded the Roman brethren that they could not expect to escape the wrathy of God if they were doing the very things for which they condemned others. No man will escape the punishment for sin, but those outside of Christ and those who live sin-filled lives may expect only the wrath of God. (Prov. 11:23)
2. Helpless. [Rom. 3:23; 6:23] All have sinned, so it is understood that all face the punishment of sin: death. With that staring us in the face, who could feel anything else but a sense of helplessness when we see no way out? Outside of Christ, that answer is not found. The world has no answer to sin, for its desire is for the fulfillment of personal desires and those who live the worldly life do not want to escape! Those whose lives are filled with sin cannot help us remove our own.
a. [Psa. 38:3-8] The psalmist illustrates the hopelessness of the man who has discovered his sin, but is not forgiven. He speaks as one who has no soundness in his flesh and no peace within him (v. 3). His sins weigh on him like a heavy burden (v. 4) and are like festering wounds (v. 5). He is troubled deep in his soul and mourns for his own condition (v. 6). He is weak and near collapse, groaning and continuously agitated because of the condemnation he faces (v. 8).
b. [Romans 7:13-24] Paul illustrated such a life in this text, showing the struggle and utter helplessness of the man who desired to live the godly life, but outside of Christ. He found that what he desired to do (good) he did not do, and what he desired to avoid (sin) is what he did do. In the end, it is no wonder that he cries out, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (v. 24) It should come as no surprise that the answer was a resounding, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (v. 25)
B. In Christ, We Have Hope.
1. No Condemnation. [Rom. 8:1] After having shown the utter futility of the one outside of Christ and the inability to overcome the sin in his life (ch. 7), we see the freedom from condemnation that comes only through Jesus Christ. In His house, there is that freedom from condemnation and the escape from the consequences of sin.
a. [Acts 2:38] The initial forgiveness of the sins of one who desires to be a part of the Lord's house comes through obedient faith. From the very beginning, it is demanded that those who desire to come out of the world and into the Lord's house must make a change. Repentance is demanded, along with obedient faith in Him, for our sins to be taken away. Not one person could be added to His church without these requirements being fulfilled.
b. [2 Tim. 2:24-26] Paul's admonition to Timothy is that, as servants of the Lord, we are to teach others that they may escape the snare of the devil (sin). We teach others that they may escape the consequences of sin and the punishment that comes along with it.
2. Continued Care. And for those who are in the Lord's house, they may expect continued care and protection from outside forces, providing a way of escape from the temptations we will face (1 Cor. 10:13), and forgiveness when we fall (1 John 1:9). As long as we "walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." (v. 7) What a relief! What an escape! Where else could we find such a refuge?
The answer, the relief, the escape, the place of safety the refuge should be found In The Lord's House. The Lord's house should be the one place where all men may come for all are welcome and be safe from the divisiveness man often creates, where we may have a measure of relief from the cares and troubles of this world, and is absolutely the only place where men may escape the punishment for our sins. This does not mean it is a body of people who indulge in sin without consequences, it is a place where it should be absent. It is A Place Of Refuge from these things, a place where they are not found, and a place where such are unwelcome. The Lord's appeal to the world is an appeal to enjoy the refuge He offers: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30) Have you responded to the call? How about now?
Will you come?
Return to the Sermons Page